German professional triathlete Julia Viellehner died yesterday in a hospital in Italy after she was hit by a truck during a training ride on a mountainous road a week earlier. But this is sadly not the first devastating news for this active family.
Viellehner raced her first IRONMAN event in Austria in 2014 and recorded a very fine 9:20:52. But at the end of the year her father Johann and brother Raphael disappeared while climbing Mt. Cook in New Zealand and are presumed dead. Both were very experienced climbers and they had teamed up with Australian climber Michael Bishop to face the challenging Mt. Cook ascent. They were last seen early on December 28th and were supposed to be only gone for a day. But when later that day no one had heard from them folks started to get worried. The next day a search plane was sent out but had to eventually stop due to inclement weather. Initially there was hope that the three climbers had found shelter in a cave and were waiting out the storm. But soon it was clear that these 3 climbers would never return.
Julia Viellehner and her mother Irmgard Viellehner were interviewed by local and regional news in early 2015 and while they both were saddened by the loss they also appreciated that father and son died doing what they loved.
"Subconsciously we have always had lived with the idea that maybe one day they might stay on a mountain," said Julia Viellehner back then to the Alt-Neuöttinger Anzeiger newspaper. Her mom Irmgard added "I think they would prefer to be on Mt. Cook instead of on the cemetery in Winhöring."
This however was also not the first time that tragedy had visited the Viellehners. In 1980, the younger brother of the father also perished while climbing. He and a local friend disappeared while ascending Mont Blanc.
After the death of her brother and father Julia Viellehner pushed harder in triathlon and won several events including the 2016 Challenge Regensburg.
Last week Viellehner rode with her boyfriend and another athlete in the Apennine Mountains of Italy when a truck who passed them veered into them and ran her over. Viellehner was seriously injured and transported to the Ospedale Maurizio Bufalini hospital in Cesena. Moto GP superstar Nicky Hayden was also transported to that hospital after his collision with a car in that region. Both athletes sadly died this week and they will be terribly missed.